“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”– Sun Tzu
As all of us know, in March of this year, we were thrown into chaos that none of us would ever have possibly imagined. Everyday life as we knew it would be no more. The simple routines were gone — all the mundane, day-to-day activities we performed unconsciously were now regulated, if not prohibited altogether. As adults, we struggled and continue to struggle with this reality. Can we even imagine what our children are experiencing? The only thing in my life I can draw on as a reference point, is the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962. I remember very clearly the feeling of fear, the duck and cover exercises at school and the immediate absence of my father, who was a USAF officer at the time. But with the steadfast calmness that was exhibited by my parents and teachers, I also remember feeling that we would be ok.
Many awful things have happened over the course of the last 9 months. We all know what those are, but one thing that has emerged from all of this devastation is our greater appreciation for those individuals who have always been there, caring for the greater good of society, largely unnoticed until we needed them.. We have witnessed the heroics of our doctors and nurses, our police, firemen, and paramedics with a new appreciation. But let’s talk about our school community, the teachers, principals, and central office administrators whose professional lives were disrupted literally overnight. Having been an educator for over 30 years and having a son who is a high school principal and a daughter-in-law who is a teacher, I can tell you that what these individuals have done, and continue to do during the pandemic, for the children and young people they serve is tantamount to a miracle. They have dived into the world of virtual learning to an extent never before witnessed, with little, if any, interruption in the learning process, and with that same level of steadfast calmness provided to many of us by our teachers during the missile crisis. While teaching every day, they have rewritten entire curriculums, and are finding new and innovative ways to impart their knowledge. They are providing much needed emotional support for not only their students but their students’ parents while struggling with their own fears. They are meeting students every day at their own personal peril to help them retain some semblance of normalcy in a world turned upside down.
We at SAYL are the benefactors of the heroic efforts of our partner school districts. With the shuttering of schools, our Reading Buddy Program came to a screeching halt. We didn’t even get the chance to say, “Goodbye, be safe!” to our students. But in the midst of chaos, we are finding a way forward. In the next few weeks, we will be onboarding our virtual reading buddy program. It has been a steep learning curve and we want to thank SAISD, our pilot district, for their help in making it happen. When we get the kinks worked out, we will be expanding our services throughout the district and have a template to offer our other partner districts. We will be offering our traditional program in NISD early in the second semester as soon as responsibly feasible. We are so eager to resume our mission to provide the children of San Antonio the skills they need “to learn to read so they may read to learn.” We want all our loyal believers during this season of miracles to know that we have indeed found opportunity in the midst of chaos.
-Deborah Valdez, Ed.D